An eastbound Norfolk Southern stack train is about to pass beneath Ravenna Road. The second unit was the only foreign power that I would see on this outing.
Last Friday was a sunny day in Northeast Ohio and it was the last weekday of my spring break. The ground was still mostly snow-covered after a snowstorm swept had swept through the region on Wednesday.
But I knew that the snow would not last for long as the high temperature on Friday was forecast to reach the lower 50s. Warmer air and solar power would make quick work of the snow.
I know that most people in a region that is accustomed to snow and cold are really really tired of winter and want spring to come.
But as a proud graduate of the RAD School of Winter Photography I remember one his earliest lessons: There is no such thing as too much snow.
My primary objective was to capture the Akron Barberton Cluster Railway train headed for Ravenna. The ABC provides freight service between Kent and Ravenna on the former Erie Railroad mainline to Chicago.
That ABC job doesn’t operate on weekends and it doesn’t go to Ravenna every day, either.
Snow and ice covered the rails at the Ravenna Road crossing. The ABC had not been past here for a while.
“I’m in luck,” I thought. Or maybe not. I never saw the ABC train on this day.
Cue the voice of Major League Baseball umpire Jim Joyce: Strrrrrriiiiiiiiiiikkkkkkkeeeeeeee!
As I crossed the Ravenna Road bridge over the Cleveland Line of Norfolk Southern, I spotted the headlight of an eastbound stack train.
There was good sunlight down the rails and I shot the train through the fence with my zoom lens. Score that a single to left.
Interestingly, the engineer of the stack train dimmed the headlight just before I began shooting. Did he do that for me or was another train approaching?
I waited for several minutes before a westbound tanker train showed up. There were no NS heritage units in the motive power consist on the head end. But maybe there would be a heritage unit DPU.
I’ll let Tom Hamilton, the radio voice of the Cleveland Indians, make the call: A-h-h-h- SWWWWIIINNNNGGG and a misssss.
I spent the rest of the morning hiking on the Portage Hike and Bike trail. It runs parallel to the ex-Erie, crosses over the CSX New Castle Subdivision on a former Erie plate girder bridge and runs parallel to CSX (ex-Baltimore & Ohio) for a short distance.
My luck might be better catching CSX trains. A couple of guys who live near Akron had been posting of late a number of photographs on Trains Orders.com of CSX trains on the New Castle Sub with foreign power of various kinds.
Before setting out on my walk, I reached into my camera bag for my scanner. It wasn’t there. I had taken it out on Thursday before photographing some non-railroad related subject matter and forgotten to put it back in.
Here’s Jim Joyce again: Strrrrrriiiiiiiiiiikkkkkkkeeeeeeee!
I arrived at the brideg over CSX and waited about 15 minutes before I thought I heard a faint sound of a locomotive horn. Then I heard it again, only louder. It must be blowing for Summit Street in Kent.
The intermediate signals that the crews call “Davey Tree” came to life and Track No. 2 displayed a clear indication for an eastbound.
Around the bend came the Q015, but with no foreign power. Strrrrrriiiiiiiiiiikkkkkkkeeeeeeee!
Fortunately, railfanning is not baseball and three strikes doesn’t mean you’re out.
Having achieved my objective of getting an eastbound CSX train from the bridge, I decided to go photograph the remains of the Erie water tank that sits back in the trees. I easily found it, but the sun angle was all wrong. It will have to wait for another day.
I hung around the stretch of the trail that is adjacent to the CSX tracks. Without my radio I would have to depend on hearing trains approaching. It wasn’t ideal, but it would have to do.
It took awhile but the Q015 showed up followed a few minutes later by an eastbound auto rack train.
I began making my way back, pausing at the bridge over CSX because the “Davey Tree” intermediate signals were on. I heard a horn that I mistakenly thought belong to an eastbound because it appeared to be coming from Kent. But it wasn’t. It was a westbound manifest freight.
The intermediate signals at “Davey Tree” stayed on after the westbound had passed. Maybe there was an eastbound in the block. I better stay put.
Minutes later I heard the eastbound approaching. It was another auto rack train.
In a span of an hour and 15 minutes I had captured five trains on CSX, which isn’t too bad on the New Castle Sub where dry spells can last for hours.
Yet none of those trains had even a hint of foreign power. I can hear the voice of one of my favorite baseball announcers, the late Harry Carey, making the call. With a strong hint of disgust in his voice, Harry might say: He POPPED him up.
Back at Towner’s Wood Park a westbound NS coal train came through. It would be my last train of the day for I would soon be heading home. I had things to do that afternoon.
Maybe there would be a DPU. Maybe it would be a heritage unit. There was a DPU, the nose was facing eastward, but it was a routine NS locomotive, albeit a standard cab. Let’s score it another single to left.
Article and Photographs by Craig Sanders
The perfect profile of matching tank cars on a westbound NS tanker train pass through Brady Lake. Alas, there were no heritage units in the motive power consist.
A pile of used ties await disposition next to the former Erie mainline in Brady Lake. Will these end up becoming a retaining wall for someone’s garden?
The Q016 rounds the curve and heads for Ravenna after having just traversed Kent.
Q015 makes an appearance next to the still snow-covered Portage Hike and Bike Trail.
A string of pumpkin-colored Schneider National containers brought up the rear of the Q015.
The first of a pair of auto rack trains that I would see. There is still a fair amount of snow — for now.
I had long wanted to get a photo of the lead unit of a westbound train between the two surviving ex-Erie bridges over the ex-B&O in Kent.
My last CSX train was another auto rack train making its way east. The Portage Hike and Bike Trail can be seen at left.
The last train of the day had a standard cab DPU unit bringing up the rear. Not a bad way to end an outing that had not quite achieved what I had hoped to get.